First coronavirus deaths in South Africa

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Cases of coronavirus in South Africa passed the thousand mark on Friday, the health ministry said and reporting its first two deaths on the first day of a three-week, nationwide lockdown.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the lockdown, which saw Africa’s most industrialised economy shudder to a halt overnight, earlier this week.

“This morning, we South Africans wake up with sad news we now have our first deaths resulting from COVID-19,” the health ministry said in a statement, adding cases rose to more than 1,000, from 927 on Thursday.

Both deaths were in Western Cape, one in a public hospital and the other in a private hospital, the statement read.

The 21-day lockdown came into force at midnight on Thursday. It largely confines people to their homes aside from specific purposes like buying food or for health emergencies.

Local media on Friday showed pictures of bustling streets and queues outside supermarkets in poor townships – where cramped, squalid conditions make social distancing near impossible and mean the virus could spread quickly among people reliant on an ailing public health system.